The first thing I noticed when I first walked into the Liminis Theatre to see Convergence-Contiuum’s production of “Amazons and Their Men” was the floor of the stage area. At first glance it looked like rough planking but at second glance you could see that it was actually simply brown painted concrete with white highlights and lines haphazardly drawn to look like boards.
The problem was that it lacked detail. There were gaps in the lines, lines that did not match up and lines that covered over one another. Now, I am not saying that anyone should go out and buy wood flooring, its just that a better job could have been done with the floor as well as the play. I am sure that on paper it looked like the play was a sure winner but unfortunately there are a lot of things that look good on paper but in reality are not so.
The time is 1939 in the heart of Nazi Germany. Leni Riefenstahl is the darling propaganda filmmaker for the German Socialist Party. In her short career she has wowed all of Germany and Hitler with her films “Triumph of the Will”, “Victory of Faith” and “Olympia”. She now wants to make an epic romantic historical film “Penthesilea” casting herself as the Amazon Queen. For her love interest in the movie she has cast a Jew from the ghetto to play Achilles and later a gay gypsy to play his male companion, Patroclus. Sparks fly on and off the movie set as Boy and Man become lovers. Added to the mix is “The Frau’s” secretly gay sister, “The Extra”, who has specialized as a dying ingénue in every one of her films (sometimes more than once in some films).
The problem seems to lie in the attention (or lack of attention) to detail. Just like the fake wood floor, lines are lost, run over or mis-aligned. Costuming runs from weird to ridiculous. At certain parts of the play, Clint Elston, who plays “The Man” in the Achilles costume appears as the “German Minister of Propaganda” wearing a hat and overcoat that does not quite cover the lower portion of his gladiator type outfit. The same is true of Lauri Hammer who plays “The Frau” whose outfit looks like it came straight out of a 20s themed second hand bad clothing store (wig and all), likewise the get-ups for “The Extra” and “The Boy”. At one point I was not sure whether I should start laughing but unfortunately this is not a comedy. It deals with grim subject matter of a totalitarian government who used propaganda to bend the will and mind of an entire people and who committed genocide on Jews, Homosexuals, Gypsies, mental patients, political adversaries…in fact anyone who did not 100% live up to the perfect Aryan ideal.
In essence, what you have here is a hard hit ball that curves foul just short of the post. Better acting might make one forget the high-schoolish props, costumes and miscues but I doubt it. It is a work that needs to be lived, not acted. Throughout the entire hour and a half (with a ten minute intermission) I felt that I was being read to, not acted for. The play runs until the later part of this month (August 30th) and hopefully by then a fix can be made. There were some high points to the play such as Clint Elston playing “The Frau’s” and “The Extra’s” aged mother (beard and all) and Jack Mutuszewski as “The Boy”, “The Telegram Messenger” and “Aphrodite” (especially the last one). Lastly, Jaclyn Cifranic as “The Extra” who gave it her all in her many and varied death scenes (hamming it up for all it was worth).
Prude Alert: No bad language is to be found, however there are strong scenes of same sex relationships with open kissing and fondling. If you are sensitive to this then grab a good book and stay at home with a cup of hot coco.
Beefs and Flubs: Take away the mis-cues, crossed over lines and missed lines as well as the costumes, props and acting and it really is not too bad a performance. Another problem was a reference by "The Frau" witnessing the SS committing Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass) after the invasion of Poland in 1939 when it actually occurred on November 9 and 10, 1938 and was done by SA paramilitary and non-Jewish civilians.
Shooting From The Lip (In My Opinion): From a company that has delighted and thrilled me to no end with past performances (I was truly looking forward to this show) I was gravely disappointed. Nothing seemed to click…from the acting, delivery of the dialog, costumes and props…it just left me feeling sad. Go see it to see if you agree with me.
Lauri Hammer as "The Frau", Clint Elston as "The Man", "German Minister of Propaganda" and the Frau's and the Extra's mother, Jacyln Cifranic as "The Extra" and Jack Matuszewski as "The Boy", "The Telegram Messenger" and."Aphrodite"
Stage Manager, Lucy Bredeson-Smith; Lighting Design, Rob Wachala; Set Design and Sound Design, Clyde Simon; Costume Design, Gregory Hatch; Rolling Set Fabricator, Wes Shofner and Postcard Design, Bill Lynn.
The show will run through August 30, 2014. Show days and times are Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. The play will be presented at the Liminis Theater that is located at 2438 Scranton Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44113. Tickets are $15 general admission, $12 seniors, $10 students. Reservations and info are available at convergence-continuum.org, by calling (216) 687-0074, or by e-mail at: email@example.com.